Acts 3:17
And now, brothers, I know that through ignorance you did it, as did also your rulers.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) I wot that through ignorance ye did it.—The Rhemish is the only version which substitutes “I know” for the now obsolete “I wot.” St. Peter’s treatment of the relation of “ignorance” to “guilt” is in exact agreement with St. Paul’s, both in his judgment of his own past offences (1Timothy 6:13) and in that which he passed on the Gentile world (Acts xvii 30). Men were ignorant where they might have known, if they had not allowed prejudice and passion to over-power the witness borne by reason and conscience. Their ignorance was not invincible, and therefore they needed to repent of what they had done in the times of that ignorance. But because it was ignorance, repentance was not impossible. Even the people and rulers of Israel, though their sin was greater, came within the range of the prayer, offered in the first instance for the Roman soldiers: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (See Note on Luke 23:34.)

Acts 3:17-18. And now, brethren — A word full of courtesy and compassion; I wot — That is, I know: here he speaks to their hearts; that through ignorance ye did it — Which lessened, though it could not annihilate, the guilt of your conduct; as did also your rulers — The prejudice lying from the authority of the chief priests and elders, he here endeavours to remove, but with great tenderness. He does not call them our, but your rulers. For as the Jewish dispensation ceased at the death of Christ, consequently so did the authority of its rulers. This was the language of Peter’s charity, and it teaches us to make the best of those whom we desire to make better: not to aggravate, but, as far as may be, to extenuate their faults or sins. Perhaps Peter perceived, by the countenances of his hearers, that they were struck with great horror at being informed that they had murdered the Messiah, the Prince of life, and that they were ready either to sink down in distress, or to fly off; and, therefore, he saw it needful to mitigate the rigour of his charge, that he might prevent their utterly despairing. He had searched the wound to the bottom, and now begins to think of healing it: in order to which it was necessary to beget in them a good opinion of their physician. And in proceeding thus, he had the example of his Master to justify him, who prayed for his crucifiers, and pleaded in their behalf, that they knew not what they did. And it is said of the rulers, that they would not have crucified the Lord of glory, if they had known him, 1 Corinthians 2:8. Doubtless many of the rulers, and of the people, in crucifying Christ, rebelled against the light and the convictions of their own consciences, influenced by envy and malice; but the generality, probably, were carried down the stream, and acted as they did through ignorance, as Paul persecuted the church ignorantly and in unbelief, 1 Timothy 1:13. But those things, &c. — But God permitted this that you have done, and overruled it for wise and gracious purposes; for he hath thus fulfilled what he had before showed by the mouth of all his prophets — Had plainly foretold in the various ages of the world; that Christ should suffer — As an atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Now, though this was no extenuation at all of their sin, in hating and persecuting Christ unto death, yet it was an encouragement to them to repent, and hope for mercy upon their repentance; not only because, in general, God’s gracious designs were carried on by it, and thus it agrees with the encouragement Joseph gave to his brethren, when they thought their offence against him almost unpardonable, (Genesis 50:15; Genesis 50:20,) but because, in particular, the sufferings and death of Christ were for the remission of sins, and the ground of that display of mercy he now encouraged them to hope for.3:12-18 Observe the difference in the manner of working the miracles. Our Lord always spoke as having Almighty power, never hesitated to receive the greatest honour that was given to him on account of his Divine miracles. But the apostles referred all to their Lord, and refused to receive any honour, except as his undeserving instruments. This shows that Jesus was one with the Father, and co-equal with Him; while the apostles knew that they were weak, sinful men, and dependent for every thing on Jesus, whose power effected the cure. Useful men must be very humble. Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name, give glory. Every crown must be cast at the feet of Christ. The apostle showed the Jews the greatness of their crime, but would not anger or drive them to despair. Assuredly, those who reject, refuse, or deny Christ, do it through ignorance; but this can in no case be an excuse.And now, brethren - Though they had been guilty of a crime so enormous, yet Peter shows the tenderness of his heart in addressing them still as his brethren. He regarded them as of the same nation with himself; as having the same hopes, and as being entitled to the same privileges. The expression also shows that he was not disposed to exalt himself as being by nature more holy than they. This verse is a remarkable instance of tenderness in appealing to sinners. It would have been easy to have reproached them for their enormous crimes; but that was not the way to reach the heart. He had indeed stated and proved their wickedness. The object now was to bring them to repentance for it; and this was to be done by tenderness, kindness, and love. People are melted to contrition, not by reproaches, but by love.

I wot - I know; am well apprised of it. I know you will affirm it, and I admit that it was so. Still the enormous deed has been done. It cannot be recalled, and it cam not be innocent. It remains, therefore, that you should repent of it, and seek for pardon.

That through ignorance ... - Peter does not mean to affirm that they were innocent in having put him to death, for he had just proved the contrary, and he immediately proceeds to exhort them to repentance. But he means to say that their offence was mitigated by the fact that they were ignorant that he was the Messiah. The same thing the Saviour himself affirmed when dying, Luke 23:34; "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Compare Acts 13:27; 1 Corinthians 2:8. The same thing the apostle Paul affirmed in relation to himself, as one of the reasons why he obtained pardon from the enormous crime of persecution, 1 Timothy 1:13. In cases like these, though crime might be mitigated, yet it was not taken entirely away. They were guilty of demanding that a man should be put to death who was declared innocent; they were urged on with ungovernable fury; they did it from contempt and malice; and the crime of murder remained, though they were ignorant that he was the Messiah. It is plainly implied that if they had put him to death knowing that he was the Messiah, and as the Messiah, there would have been no forgiveness. Compare Hebrews 10:26-29. Ignorance, therefore, is a circumstance which must always be taken into view in an estimate of crime. It is at the same time true that they had opportunity to know that he was the Messiah, but the mere fact that they were ignorant of it was still a mitigating circumstance in the estimate of their crime. There can be no doubt that the mass of the people had no fixed belief that he was the Messiah.

As did also your rulers - Compare 1 Corinthians 2:8, where the apostle says that none of the princes of this world knew the wisdom of the gospel, for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. It is certain that the leading scribes and Pharisees were urged on by the most ungovernable fury and rage to put Jesus to death, even when they had abundant opportunity to know his true character. This was particularly the case with the high priest. But yet it was true that they did not believe that he was the Messiah. Their minds had been prejudiced. They had expected a prince and a conqueror. All their views of the Messiah were different from the character which Jesus manifested. And though they might have known that he was the Messiah; though he had given abundant proof of the fact, yet it is clear that they did not believe it. It is not credible that they would have put to death one whom they really believed to be the Christ. He was the hope, the only hope of their nation; and they would not have dared to imbrue their hands in the blood of him whom they really believed to be the illustrious personage so long promised and expected by their fathers. It was also probably true that no small part of the Sanhedrin was urged on by the zeal and fury of the chief priests. They had not courage to resist them; and yet they might not have entered heartily into this work of persecution and death. Compare John 7:50-53. The speech of Peter, however, is not intended to free them entirely from blame; nor should it be pressed to show that they were innocent. It is a mitigating circumstance thrown in to show them that there was still hope of mercy.

17-21. And now, brethren—Our preacher, like his Master, "will not break the bruised reed." His heaviest charges are prompted by love, which now hastens to assuage the wounds it was necessary to inflict.

I wot—"know."

through ignorance ye did it—(See marginal references, Lu 23:34; Ac 13:27; 26:9).

Lest the corrosive in Acts 3:13-15 should pierce too far, to prevent despair in his auditors the apostle useth in this verse a lenitive, calling them yet brethren, though guilty of so great a mistake in their judgment, and fault in their practice.

Through ignorance ye did it; whatsoever they did against Christ, whom St. Peter preached, was out of a double error:

1. About the place of Christ’s birth, supposing him to have been born at Nazareth.

2. They were ignorant of the nature of his kingdom.

As did also your rulers; whose fault was the greater, as having seduced others, &c.; yet St. Peter opens a door of hope by repentance, even for them also. And now, brethren,.... He calls them brethren, because they were so according to the flesh; and to testify his cordial love and affection for them.

I wot, or "I know",

that through ignorance ye did it; delivered up Jesus into the hands of Pilate; denied him to be the Messiah before him; preferred a murderer to him, and put him to death.

As did also your rulers; the members of the sanhedrim, some of them; see 1 Corinthians 2:8 for others of them knew him to be the Messiah, to be sent of God, by the miracles he did, and yet blasphemously ascribed them to Satan; and so sinning against light and knowledge, in such a malicious manner, sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost, to which ignorance is here opposed; and which did not excuse from sin: nor was it itself without sin; nor is it opposed to any sin, but to this now mentioned.

{3} And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.

(3) It is best of all to receive Christ as soon as he is offered to us: but those who have neglected so great a benefit through man's weakness, yet have repentance as a means. As for the shame of the cross, we have to set against that the decree and purpose of God for Christ, foretold by the Prophets, how that first of all he would be crucified here upon the earth, and then he would appear from heaven the judge and restorer of all things, that all believers might be saved, and all unbelievers utterly perish.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 3:17-18. Peter now pitches his address in a tone of heart-winning gentleness, setting forth the putting to death of Jesus (1) as a deed of ignorance (Acts 3:17), and (2) as the necessary fulfilment of the divine counsel (Acts 3:18).

καὶ νῦν] and now, i.e. et sic, itaque; so that νῦν is to be understood not with reference to time, but as: in this state of matters.[144] Comp. Xen. Anab. iv. 1. 19, and Kühner in loc. See also Acts 7:34, Acts 10:5, Acts 22:16; John 2:2-8; 2 John 1:5.

ἀδελφοί] familiar, winning. Chrys.: ΑὐΤῶΝ ΤᾺς ΨΥΧᾺς ΕὐΘΈΩς Τῇ ΤῶΝ ἈΔΕΛΦῶΝ ΠΡΟΣΗΓΟΡΊᾼ ΠΑΡΕΜΥΘΉΣΑΤΟ. Comp. on the other hand, Acts 3:12 : ἌΝΔΡΕς ἸΣΡΑΗΛῖΑΙ.

ΚΑΤᾺ ἌΓΝΟΙΑΝ
] unknowingly (Leviticus 22:14), since you had not recognised Him as the Messiah; spoken quite in the spirit of Jesus. See Luke 23:34; comp. Acts 13:27. “Hoc ait, ut spe veniae eos excitet,” Pricaeus. Comp. also 1 Peter 1:14. The opposite κατὰ πρόθεσιν, κατὰ προαίρεσιν.

ὭΣΠΕΡ ΚΑῚ ΟἹ ἌΡΧ. ὙΜῶΝ] namely, have acted ignorantly. Wolf (following the Peshito) refers the comparison merely to ἐπράξατε: scio vos ignorantia adductos, ut faceretis sicut duces vestri. But it would have been unwise if Peter, in order to gain the people, had not purposed to represent in the same mild light the act also of the Sanhedrists (ἄρχοντες), on whom the people depended. Comp. 1 Corinthians 2:8.

Acts 3:18. But that could not but so happen, etc. Comp. Luke 24:44 ff.

πάντων τῶν προφητῶν] comp. Luke 24:27. The expression is neither to be explained as a hyperbole (Kuinoel) nor from the typical character of history (Olshausen), but from the point of view of fulfilment, in so far as the Messianic redemption, to which the divine prediction of all the prophets referred (comp. Acts 10:43), has been realized by the sufferings and death of Jesus. Looking back from this standpoint of historical realization, it is with truth said: God has brought into fulfilment that which He declared beforehand by all the prophets, that His Messiah should suffer. On τ. Χριστὸν αὐτοῦ, comp. Acts 4:26; Luke 2:26; Luke 9:20; Revelation 11:15; Revelation 12:10.

ΟὝΤΩ] so, as it has happened, vers. 14, 15, 17.

[144] Since, in fact, only by this self-manifestation of the risen Christ must the true light concerning Him who was formerly rejected and put to death have dawned upon you; otherwise you could not have so treated Him.Acts 3:17. καὶ νῦν: favourite formula of transition, cf. Acts 7:35, Acts 10:5, Acts 20:25, Acts 22:16, 1 John 2:28, 2 John 1:5. See Wendt and Page, in loco. Bengel describes it as “formula transeuntis a præterito ad præsens”. Blass, “i.e., quod attinet ad ea quæ nunc facienda sunt, Acts 3:19”.—ἀδελφοί: affectionate and conciliatory, cf. Acts 3:12, where he speaks more formally because more by way of reproof: “One of the marks of truth would be wanting without this accordance between the style and the changing mental moods of the speaker” (Hackett).—κατὰ ἄγνοιαν: the same phrase occurs in LXX, Leviticus 22:14 (cf. also Leviticus 5:18, Ecclesiastes 5:5). On κατά in this usage, see Simcox, Language of the N. T., p. 149, who doubts whether it is quite good Greek. It is used in Polybius, and Blass compares κατʼ ἀνάγκην (Philem., Acts 3:14), which is found in Xen., Cyr., iv., 3. Their guilt was less than if they had slain the Messiah κατὰ πρόθεσιν κατὰ προαίρεσιν, or ἐν χειρὶ ὑπερηφανίας, Numbers 15:30, and therefore their hope of pardon was assured on their repentance (cf. 1 Peter 1:14, ἐν ἀγνοίᾳ, and Psalms of Solomon, Acts 18:5, for the same phrase). St. Peter speaks in the spirit of his Master, Luke 23:34. See instances in Wetstein of the antithesis of the two phrases κατʼ ἄγνοιαν and κατὰ πρόθεσιν (προαίρεσιν) in Polybius.—οἱ ἄρχοντες ὑμῶν, cf. 1 Corinthians 2:8. The guilt of the rulers was greater than that of the people, but even for their crime St. Peter finds a palliation in the fact that they did not recognise the Messiah, although he does not hold them guiltless for shutting their eyes to His holiness and innocence.17. I wot] This antiquated word is the present tense of the verb to wit (A. S. witan) = to know, and its past tense is I wist. Had I wist = had I known.

through ignorance] Ignorance has many degrees and can arise from many causes. The Jewish multitude were ignorant from want of teaching, their rulers from mental perverseness in looking only on one part of the prophecies concerning the Messiah. Yet of both these it may be said that through ignorance (i.e. want of knowledge, however caused,) they crucified Jesus.Acts 3:17. Καὶ νῦν, and now) ועתה, a formula of transition from the past to the present.—ἀδελφοὶ, brethren) An appellation full of courtesy and compassion.—οἶδα, I know) Peter speaks to their heart, kindly. On this account he rather says, I know, than we know.—κατὰ ἄγνοιαν, through ignorance) ch. Acts 13:27, “Because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath they; thet have fulfilled them in condemning Him.”—ἄρχοντες, rulers) These were not present, but the people. Peter sets aside the prejudice of authority [viz. of the chief priests and rulers], and this again he does in a kindly manner.Verse 17. - In for through, A.V. I wot that in ignorance, etc. Mark the inimitable skill and tenderness with which he who had just wounded by his sharp rebuke now binds up the wound. All sternness and uncompromising severity before, he is all gentleness and indulgence now. They were only "men of Israel" in ver. 12, now they are "brethren." He has an excuse for their grievous sin. They did it in ignorance (comp. Luke 23:33; 1 Timothy 1:13). Only let them see their error and repent of what they had done, and their forgiveness was sure.
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